The Kansas City Chiefs still hold the distinction of being the only undefeated team in the NFL, though that mark was hardly in jeopardy with the team enjoying a bye week in Week 10. The Chiefs are gearing up for what many consider to be one of, if not the, premier games of the 2013 NFL football season in Week 11, traveling to Denver to take on the division-rival Broncos.
The Denver Broncos hold the second-best record in the NFL at 8-1, and the winner of the Week 11 showdown with Kansas City will be in the driver's seat for the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The game will be a contrast in styles as the Kansas City Chiefs take the league's most dominant defense to the Rocky Mountain country to test their mettle against the high-flying Denver Broncos and their aerial assault. The Chiefs employ a more contained offensive approach, seeking to control the clock and minimize mistakes while matriculating the ball down the field.
|AFC West Division Standings|
|Kansas City Chiefs||9||0||215||111|
|San Diego Chargers||4||5||212||202|
Kansas City has a full game lead on Denver going next week's matchup, placing them at a distinct advantage in the playoff race. If Kansas City wins, it puts them a full two games ahead of Denver, and if they lose they have a chance to recover top billing in the AFC West with their rematch at Arrowhead Stadium in three weeks.
Winning the AFC West is critically important, since division winners are guaranteed the top four seeds in the playoffs. Whichever team finishes second in the AFC West this year will likely land the conference's fifth seed heading into the postseason. It also means road playoff games and losing out on a first-round bye.
The bye week came at an opportune time for Kansas City; they don't have anyone currently listed on the official injury report. Only defensive end Mike Catapano (ankle) was held out of the Chiefs' 23-13 win in Week 9 over the Buffalo Bills.
For the Broncos, the injury situation could potentially be disastrous. Quarterback Peyton Manning took a big hit near the end of their Week 10 win over the San Diego Chargers, at this point his status is unclear, and he will undergo an MRI on his knee on Monday.
The Broncos also have multiple injuries in their defensive backfield. Both Champ Bailey and Duke Ihenacho were inactive in Week 10. Bailey has had issues with his foot almost all season, and Ihenacho is dealing with an ankle injury.
The Broncos' official injury report won't be updated until Wednesday; we at Bleacher Report will keep you updated on the situation throughout the week.
What Must Improve
The Chiefs defense and special teams units have been the stalwarts of the team this season; the offense has been mostly steady and efficient but has struggled at times to finish out drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.
Against the Broncos, Kansas City simply cannot afford to settle for field goals.
The Chiefs must improve in generating interior pressure on the defensive line. Kansas City started the season with nose tackle Dontari Poe looking as though he was going to assume the mantle as the league's best at that position. Although Poe's level of play has remained high, he and other defensive linemen have struggled to push the pocket from the center of the line in recent weeks.
Peyton Manning is a quarterback you must move off his spot in order to disrupt him. The Indianapolis Colts did this effectively in their 39-33 Week 7 win over Denver, sacking Manning four times and forcing him to reset his feet on most of his dropbacks.
The Chiefs will also need to continue to improve along their offensive line.
Early in the season the Broncos were without pass-rushing specialist Von Miller, who was serving a six-game suspension for violating and conspiring to circumvent the league's substance-abuse policy. Miller has now returned to the team and resumed applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks, picking up two sacks in three games.
For Kansas City, rookie right tackle and top overall draft pick Eric Fisher has failed to live up to expectations thus far, while left tackle Brandon Albert has been shaky at times as well. The Chiefs need to keep quarterback Alex Smith out of negative-yardage situations and ahead of the chains if they hope to come away with the victory.
Denver and Kansas City have played five common opponents thus far in the season: the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys. The common-opponents table below shows how both teams fared against shared opponents this season.
|Team||Denver Score||Opponent Score||Kansas City Score||Opponent Score|
|New York Giants||41||23||31||7|
While Denver clearly enjoys an offensive advantage against common opponents, they also hemorrhage points on defense at an alarming rate. The Broncos gave up 26.2 points per game to common opponents, while the Chiefs allowed an average of just 9.6 points per game to those same teams.
Kansas City is also getting the benefit of coming off a bye week. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was an astounding 13-1 coming off a bye week while head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, with his lone loss coming in 2012.